JERUSALEM: The lone Israeli court judge looking into the eviction appeal lodged by Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem has decided to let three judges of the Supreme Court take up the case on Monday.
The decision follows the rejection of both the Jewish settler organization and lawyers for the Palestinian families to reach an agreement between them as requested by the judge.
Lawyer Hosni Abu Hussein, representing the Palestinian families, told Arab News that the Israeli judge did not have the courage to take the right decision.
“Our request to appeal the eviction was based on sound legal arguments that any judge would have easily accepted but the prevailing atmosphere made it difficult for the judge to stand up for justice.”
Head of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens in Israel Mohammad Baraka and member of Knesset Ahmad Tibi met with representatives of the families in Jerusalem and later issued a statement of support for their “steadfastness” and their rejections of compromise offers.
Tibi told Arab News that the priority is to support the Palestinian families and to protect the Arab identity of Jerusalem. “It is clear that the aim of this unjust eviction effort is to Judaize the Arab city of Jerusalem,” he said.
Abdel Latif Ghaith, a senior veteran Jerusalem activist, told Arab News that the public support for the people of Sheikh Jarrah must continue without any hesitation.
“What is clear is that the Israeli courts will not act on their own even in a case where justice is so obvious. The public pressure both local, regional and international, together with the legal effort and the undisputed documentation, will reverse the effort of the Jewish settlers bent on taking over this Palestinian area,” he said.
Ehab Abdel Latif, a resident of Sheikh Jarrah who has illegal Jewish settlers on two sides of his house, said he is worried. “Although we are not at present threatened with eviction, if the Israeli courts insist on turning a blind eye to the facts in this case and give unquestioned support to the Jewish settlers, then we are all doomed.”
Jordan was in control of Jerusalem when the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) built housing units on the vacant land and started to charge Palestinians rent. Settler organizations, which also claim to be the owners of the land, are now demanding rent payment.
Layer Abu Hussein explained that the compromise the courts wanted failed because of the gap between both sides. Palestinians said that they are willing to avoid eviction on grounds of not paying the rent by depositing the rent to a fund at the courts, while the Jewish settler organization Lahav Shomron is willing to allow the Palestinians to stay at their homes on condition that they pay rent to them. But if this happens the settlers will be considered landowners.
According to the rent protection law in Jerusalem, the offer by the settler organization allows Palestinian families to stay as long as a designated member of the family is alive. Thereafter, the settler organization would take over the homes. Palestinian residents have rejected this offer.
New evidence, which has emerged from the Ottoman records in Turkey and the Jordanian government, proves Jordan and the UNRWA agreed to build housing units on the land for Palestinians, Abu Hussein said. The land actually belonged to the Hijazi Saadi family, dated 1149 Hijri (1736 AD).
Using old Ottoman documents, the settlers’ side said the land belonged to an oriental Jewish group that registered itself in 1972.
Palestinian lawyers dispute this claim, arguing that the documents in the Ottoman archives in Istanbul that the settlers refer to do not exist and are forged.
Abu Hussein said that settlers have made ownership claims without proof that they are the original owners of the land.